Working together to liberate the quad
Author and lawyer Greg Lukianoff is a self-described atheist liberal. But during the past 20 years, he’s continually promoted the interests of evangelical Christians on college campuses. And, in 2001, he became the legal director of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit co-founded by Alan Charles Kors, one of the leading conservative intellectuals in the U.S.
His first book, “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate,” is an impassioned plea for robust, unrestrained speech in higher education.
“I find something very sad about the fact that I’m constantly asked, ‘How can you defend them if you’re not one of them?’ I think we’ve regressed to a very unprincipled, polarized level of discourse if it puzzles people that a person who is not a believer would defend the rights of evangelical Christians,” says Lukianoff from his Brooklyn home. “We’re just so polarized right now that people have a hard time understanding a group like FIRE, where you actually see people who vote for different candidates and come from different backgrounds working together.”
Lukianoff has since taken over as president of FIRE, leading the group to advocate for Muslims, libertarians, environmentalists, fraternity brothers and a host of other student groups while publicly shaming the colleges that seek to silence them. “Unlearning Liberty” chronicles a list of cases FIRE has been most interested in during the past decade, from the Valdosta State student who was expelled for an anti-parking garage Facebook post to the now infamous Yale-banned “sissies” T-shirt.
“There’s been a huge expansion of administrative positions at universities. You end up having a lot more people overseeing and managing what students are doing,” explains Lukianoff. “Plus, there’s an increased concern over liability: They’re scared of being sued for everything from harassment to discrimination, and they’re convinced that speech codes will inoculate them from litigation. And, of course, there’s a certain amount of political correctness that appears on campuses — this idea that being offended is a bad thing. But, from our perspective, anybody that goes through four years of college without having their beliefs challenged should ask for their money back.”